Assessing Professional Knowledge :
Pennsylvania

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should use a licensing test to verify that all new teachers meet its professional standards.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Assessing Professional Knowledge : Pennsylvania results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/PA-Assessing-Professional-Knowledge--6

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Pennsylvania only requires all new elementary teachers to pass a popular content test from the Praxis series that combines both subject-matter knowledge and pedagogy in order to attain licensure.

Citation

Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Require that all new teachers pass a pedagogy test.
Pennsylvania should verify that all new teachers meet professional standards through a test of professional knowledge.

Verify that commercially available tests of pedagogy actually align with state standards.
Pennsylvania should ensure that its selected test of professional knowledge measures the knowledge and skills the state expects new teachers to have.  

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania asserted that all candidates seeking certification must pass pedagogy and content tests, which align with both the certificate Framework Guidelines and the academic standards. The state added that testing will be completed in a modular format, and that new testing designs are currently being developed by Pearson for the basic skills, PK-4 and special education certificates. ETS is developing the test for the 4-8 certificate.

Research rationale

For evidence of the importance of pedagogy tests in improving student achievement, see C. Clotfelter, H.Ladd and J.Vigdor, "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?"  Working Paper 2, Calder Institute (2007).

For further information regarding the use of performance assessments and the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) in California and other states see L. Darling-Hammond, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: How Teacher Performance Assessments Can Measure and Improve Teaching" Center for American Progress (2010). 

For a perspectives on the issues with teaching dispositions, see W. Damon, "Personality Test: The dispositional dispute in teacher preparation today and what to do about it" in Arresting Insights in Education Vol.2 No. 3 (2005);  J. Gershman, "'Disposition' Emerges as Issue at Brooklyn College," New York Sun, May 2005.

For evidence on the low passing scores required by states on pedagogy tests, see the U.S. Department of Education's Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality (2010). Also see K. Walsh "A Candidate-Centered Model for Teacher Preparation and Licensure" in A Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom (Hess, Rotherham and Walsh, eds.) (2004)